Team mates, opposing goalie save Nanaimo hockey player’s life

NANAIMO – Quick action and a nearby defibrillator are being credited for helping to save the life of a 34-year-old man who suffered cardiac arrest while seated on the players’ bench during a Nanaimo Oldtimers Hockey League game Thursday night.

Kelly Reagh is recovering and undergoing tests at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, said his wife, Ali. She said her husband owes his life to the fellow hockey players and emergency responders who rushed to his aid.

The incident took place at Frank Crane Arena at about 9:20 p.m. Reagh, who had been playing on ice, was seated on his team’s bench.

Friend and teammate Clay Wilcox said that Reagh began complaining of chest pain.

“I was talking with him, just asking where it hurts where it hurts, and he collapsed onto the bench,” Wilcox said.

“I instantly asked the guy beside us if he was unconscious, if his eyes were open, and he told us he was unconscious.”

Wilcox immediately shouted for the referee to stop game play.

He and teammate Shane Hagan, both of whom have first-aid training, lifted Reagh off of the bench and into the corridor leading to the change room.

They began removing Reagh’s hockey gear.

“We just wanted to get his gear off him so he could breathe,” Hagan said.

Across the ice, Darren Chadwick, the opposing team’s goalie, knew from the commotion that something was seriously wrong. Chadwick, armed with 20 years’ first-aid experience, began performing CPR on the unconscious man.

“Instinct took over for me – I didn’t think twice,” Chadwick said.

While that was going on, Wilcox had rushed to retrieve one of the automated external defibrillator, or AEDs, that the city keeps at its ice rinks.

Chadwick said they performed CPR and used the defibrillator on Reagh for four to five minutes.

Another team member had called 911 in the meantime, and fire and ambulance crews arrived shortly after.

Wilcox, Chadwick and Hagan have all since visited Reagh in hospital and credit emergency services for a speedy response. Ali Reagh said her husband is otherwise healthy and doctors think a viral infection may have been a factor in the cardiac arrest.

She added that Kelly Reagh is a carpenter who frequently works alone. If the cardiac arrest occurred during one of those times, he most likely would have died, she said.

One of his teammates is a doctor who was working on the night of the incident and knew Kelly was on his way to hospital, she said.

“It’s just crazy – you couldn’t have written a better story,” she said. “Everyone [who helped] is a hero in my eyes. He’s the one per cent that survive.”

Kelly Reagh is able to walk now and is improving, but still has more recovering to do.

“He feels like he’s been kicked in the chest by a horse,” said his wife.

City of Nanaimo arenas manager Darcie Osborne said the city has invested in AEDs in five of its recreational facilities since 2008. They have saved lives six of the seven times they have been used.